Three men have been jailed after a burglary spree which targeted houses belonging to footballers and celebrities, including Manchester City star Raheem Sterling.
Thomas Mee, 42, Vincent Ball, 52, and John Barlow, 58, all from Liverpool, were sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Monday after admitting conspiracy to burgle, a spokesman for Cheshire Police said.
Jamiroquai singer Jay Kay’s house in Buckinghamshire was among those targeted by the gang, as well as the homes of Bury FC chairman Steve Dale and Mansfield Town FC owner John Radford.
Mee, of HMP Altcourse, who also admitted handling stolen goods, was jailed for eight years and seven months.
Getaway driver Ball, of Ranworth Place, Liverpool, was sentenced to six years and nine months, while Barlow, of no fixed address, was jailed for seven years and six months.
A spokesman from Cheshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “Ball, Barlow and Mee are all members of a sophisticated organised crime gang responsible for at least 14 burglaries across England.
“They showed an extreme level of forensic and digital awareness when committing the offences, demonstrating their determination to obtain hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of other people’s property and family heirlooms.
“A significant level of planning and preparation went into each burglary, with the trio travelling hundreds of miles to commit the offences and specifically targeting the homes of high-profile businessmen and women, footballers and celebrities.
“In these 14 incidents alone they caused damage and stole property to a total value of more than £600,000.”
The court heard that the defendants attempted to burgle Sterling’s home in Goostrey, Cheshire, on November 4 2018, but were scared away when the alarm system was activated and left empty-handed.
Ten days later, on November 14 2018, the three men checked into a hotel in Buckinghamshire and later Kay’s home, Horsenden Manor, was targeted.
The court heard that the singer’s housekeeper noticed an upstairs window was open and found a camera had been stolen.
Jewellery, watches and handbags were taken from 14 properties across Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire between November 2018 and October 2019, the court heard.
Photos of some of the handbags were found on Mee’s phone.
On October 5 2019 the burglars were disturbed while in the Prestbury home of Mr Dale.
Watches worth between £300,000 and £500,000 were dropped by the intruders as Mr Dale’s son gave chase, and they left the property with only a £10 note.
They were later arrested and items including balaclavas, binoculars, crowbars and cloned number plates were found in a car used by the men.
The force spokesman added: “The impact of their crime spree should not be under-estimated. To know that criminals have been in your home – the place you should be able to feel most safe – rifled through your property and stole your personal possessions is sickening.
“While the majority of these incidents occurred when the victims were out, some burglaries took place while they were at home. To be subjected to such an ordeal must be absolutely terrifying and something that nobody should have to experience.
“I hope that these convictions provide some comfort and reassurance to the victims and allows them to move forward with their lives.”